DDB Brazil did make a commercial for WWF 911 / Tsunami - it was submitted to Cannes Lions 2009.

Yesterday emails were flying around the globe where people wondered about the consistency from DDB, first denying they ever made a commercial in their WWF "campaign", then at youtube people saw the ads removed from there "due to a copyright claim from DDB". Well, for someone who didn't make an ad, they were quite good at entering it in awards shows as you can find it here in the Cannes press category and here in the film category. Okaaay. Well, as it turns out they did make a video and even AdAge are reporting it as submitted to the Cannes Lions awards this summer. Cannes film jury president David Lubars says he didn't see it though and guesses it was eliminated early on. The original DDB Brazil 911 Tsunami ad post is getting so many updates now it's making me dizzy. This is quite possibly the worst PR disaster for a brand due to award-cheating we've ever seen. It's nothing like a spec job gone viral (*caugh* Volkswagen suicide bomber *caugh*) that eventually gave the creative team Lee&Dan not just fame but also a good boost on the careers. (Did you check out their most recent work for Adidas via 180?) Then again, was it 'cheating'? The One Show award received a tear sheet proving the ad had run in a portuguese language newspaper. Is this like that Amnesty Broze Lion winner which Amnesty said they never approved (and to top it all off had amnesty.COM not amnesty.ORG in the small print which kinda proves that Amnesty never saw the thing). This WWF film even has the year of the tsunami wrong, which makes it seem done in haste. This ad pissed off many people, Keith Olbermann named "DDB Brazil" - actually DM9DDB - the worst people on his shitlist. At around 2:56 he says "....as if you should be using the nightmare of 911 in an advertisement. As if you should be using it to make any point." Yeah, thanks for totally ignoring that the ad also used the tsunami disaster in it, the one with the death toll one hundred times higher, glad you noticed it. I swear, the WTC towers to Americans is like waving red flag to a bull. Remember The Bic ad campaign that used wite-out on the airplane about to hit the towers? Consumerist recap of the wite-out disaster after Bic headquarters in the states saw it and demanded that everyone remove the ads.

He adds ...And in charge of the ad, and CEO president creative director of the DDB Brazil agency, Sergio Valante ... frankly, I hope he starves on the streets. That's fabulous Keith Olbermann, I see you subscribe to the motto "When two wrongs don't make a right try three".

The Atlantic asks will it ever be OK to use 911 in an ad? - and I think it's much like the Holocaust, taboo forever unless there's good reason (ie; "Don't let this happen again" ads) - but that doesn't mean it hasn't been used in ads before. Remember The Humo magazine ad which people call the most offensive ad ever? I dislike seeing that some journalists and many commenters are cranky about the 'verification' of said ad, once the denials started flying, squarely laying the blame of 'shoddy reporting' on trigger happy twitterers and bloggers. Get off your high horses. Even the new York Times didn't report who created the ad, and the story first broke it was due to the fact that and it could be seen under this link: year=2009&id=10486 at the One Show. It has now been removed - but AdAge and Creativity magazine received the print ad in a press kit this week sent by DDB Brasil's PR department - who now claim the addition of that ad in the kit was a mistake. The ad is verified as having been created by DM9DDB, the real question is if WWF ever signed off on it. WWF Brazil now has a new "note of clarification" with the text in English:

Created by the publicity agency DM9DDB, this piece was presented to WWF-Brazil in December 2008, and we did not approve its circulation.

So if ad-tradepress and adblogs rely on awards to check if ads "are real", and ad awards rely on tearsheets only - how do we ensure that award-winning work was approved by the client? Perhaps have the client sign off on the award work. With their full name, title and company phone number. Then lets divert some of that award-moolah toward checking that all work is kosher instead of diverting it into the owners pocket. What do you say Emap, you bought Cannes Lions which had a sordid history of money-skimming. Now that all that cash is actually accounted for, lets put it to good use and make Cannes a reputable award again, shall we? Then again, it would be much easier if ad agencies just quit lying, wouldn't it?

DDB Brazil 911 commercial

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Bas_'s picture

To be honest I find it a rather brilliant ad. Ofcourse are the (conservative) Americans going crazy on this, but from another point of view you could also say the statement of the ad has created its point of awareness. At least, in de the rest of the world, hehe. People are talking about it. Maybe on the short term only about the 9/11-part (the bad timing, sigh), but later on this might switch more to the tsunami/nature-part, even if it's subconscious.

All in all I still understand why WWF rejected this ad from DDB in the first place. It could do harm to the relations with their American investors, which I assume are quiet a lot.

Worst story I've read about this case so far is that DDB Brazil sacked the whole creative team who worked on this ad for them. I sooo hope this isn't true. Would be a step back in the liberal world of advertising...

Dabitch's picture

The bad timing seems rather planned - after all both Creativity Magazine and Adweek received this very ad in a press kit from DDB just this week. And then turned around claiming that part of the whole debacle (along with most other parts) was a mistake. Hmmm.